Lisa Ricard Claro – Author

Romance is good for your heart!

The Voice: What Makes You Turn Your Chair?

Posted on Mar 15, 2017 by Lisa Ricard Claro   16 Comments | Posted in The Naked Truth

The Voice is my guilty pleasure. I love the premise of the blind auditions. The judges’ backs are turned away from the stage so they can’t base their opinions on a performer’s looks. It is, literally, all about the voice. Of course, once auditions are over and teams are chosen, it becomes a national popularity contest, especially at the end of the season when America does the voting.

Still, the show is upbeat, and unlike its predecessor, American Idol, all who audition have been vetted and have real talent, even if they don’t get a chair to turn—no horrible warbling followed by unkind remarks by the judges (AI never sat well with me for that reason). The Voice contestants often arrive with emotional backstories that are braced with comic relief by the easy camaraderie between the judges. The singers come to The Voice stage with a singular mantra: If one of the judges turns a chair for me today it will validate all my hard work. It will prove I’m meant to be a singer. It will change my life.

Authors feel the same way when they send out query letters, so I empathize with them from the comfort of my family room sofa.

In any event, as the hubster and I watched The Voice last night, it occurred to me that just like the judges with their backs turned, readers are in a similar place when they open a book by an author that is new to them. On The Voice, the contestant has a mere ninety seconds in which to command the stage and capture the attention of the judges. Authors have less than that, I’ve been told—only a paragraph, two if you’re lucky, to convince someone their book is worth reading. Less than that if you consider that many will read the back cover blurb and never even open the book.

Once the book is opened, though, what is it that ensures a reader will keep turning the pages?

There’s the all-important first line, the hook. Plot and characters must be discounted because neither has time to develop in those first opening sentences.  So what does it? What makes a reader turn to the stage?

The voice.

The author’s voice is what grabs readers. Yes, yes, the action, the opening line, the premise and plot—all of these are important ingredients and play a role. But we’re talking about that first ninety-second audition, right?

If the voice doesn’t capture you, isn’t enough to hold your attention, you won’t hit the big red button to turn your chair and invite the contestant on your team. You might be missing out on a great book, but does it matter? If the voice isn’t one with which you want to spend precious hours of your life, then why keep reading? For me, there have been books I’ve had to force myself to plow through when the voice didn’t grab me, just because it was required reading. Torture. Sheer torture. (Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald—gak! But I loved The Great Gatsby.) Other books snapped me up in an instant. (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.)


An agent told me once that voice is everything. It trumps theme, premise, and plot. An author’s voice is a game changer, she said. The book can be crap, but if the voice is amazing, people will read it. It is also subjective in the extreme. Just like on The Voice where one judge may slap his button and the other three decline, so it is with books and readers.

Singers may take voice lessons. Writers may take writing workshops. Some things are constant—in music, a C is always a C, no matter the quality of the voice singing it. In writing, grammar rules are still grammar rules, no matter the author. It is the voice employing those tools that makes all the difference. And just like the voices on The Voice, some have that something extra and some do not. Chalk it up to luck and natural talent. Someone can study voice for decades but will never have a voice as instantly recognizable as Celine Dion. Or write hundreds of thousands of words and never have a voice as distinct as Stephen King and Nora Roberts.

Voice cannot be taught to a writer. Voice just is—that indefinable factor that comes from within and is developed over time and a relentless study of craft. It is always part of us, who we were, are, and hope to become. We coax it out, note by note, word by word, hoping it is unique enough to be remembered, appreciated . . . and heard.

Find your voice, buttercup, and don’t hold back. Let it shine.

THE BIG QUESTION: What is it about a voice, in music or literature, which captures your attention? What makes the difference to you during that ninety-second audition? What makes you press the big red button and turn your chair to the stage?

For your listening pleasure, here’s Jordan Smith, winner of The Voice from a couple seasons ago. Enjoy!

See you next week for more of the Naked Truth. Have a great week!

Romance is good for your heart! To purchase your copy of Love Built to Last, Love to Believe, or Love to Win in eBook or print, go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Black Opal Books, or Kobo. Or just click the book cover on the sidebar. That works too. And autographed copies are available for purchase on my home page. 🙂

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16 Responses to "The Voice: What Makes You Turn Your Chair?"

  1. Comment by Pat
    March 15, 2017 at 9:02 am  

    I admit to being a very picky reader. I want a story to unfold in a natural, not forced or rushed way. There should be something tickling my brain-a hint of some secret that will keep me turning the pages to know more. A touch of wry humor appeals to me, too. The story should teach me something in an entertaining and satisfying way. Examples of some voices I adore: Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell, Kathryn Stockett, Susanna Kearsley, Mary Stewart, Kathleen Grissom.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      March 22, 2017 at 9:22 am  

      I agree, Pat, and especially with romances. A natural unfolding is more realistic.

  2. Comment by Stephanie Trietsch
    March 15, 2017 at 9:50 am  

    Since I’ve written a bit and studied the craft a bit more it’s hard for me to find a book I enjoy reading. You hit the nail on the head. It’s the voice that allows me to transcend reality and be swept away.

    Though I’m a pickier reader now when I do find one I shout it from the roof! The last one I loved (“The Night Garden” by Lisa Van Allen) I “fan-girled” all over her web page, in my review on BookBub and GoodReads!

    Definitely the kind of book I want to write when I grow up 😉


    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      March 22, 2017 at 9:24 am  

      Ah, yes. The trouble with learning the tricks of the trade. lol As an editor, that’s a real problem for me. I have a tough time shutting off my internal editor, and I find myself redlining things. Still, the ones that capture me to the point that I don’t do that—those are some great books!

  3. Comment by Stephanie Trietsch
    March 15, 2017 at 10:01 am  

    I bought the book from BookBub and emailed her Author Page. She sent back the nicest note!

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      March 22, 2017 at 9:24 am  

      Reviews are manna from heaven to authors. I wish every reader would take the time to leave a review!

  4. Comment by Claudia
    March 15, 2017 at 10:46 am  

    Very good post! Yes, there are both singers and writers who are good enough but get lost in the shuffle, just aren’t chosen while some are. Then some make it and are not my tastes. This winter the chemo has been SO hard which makes reading hard or non existent. Maybe it is just me but I have had a hard time finding a voice I want to listen too. The voices in my latest books sound snarky…biting for effect…feel ugly and unreliable. Yep, Scarlett could be snarky too but she was real somehow. My book club choices this year have had drugged, drunk, and delinquent characters. I can watch the news for that! So I revert to old books, read again ones with imperfect characters but ones who have a voice that sounds authentic…or do I mean outdated?

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      March 22, 2017 at 9:25 am  

      Nothing wrong with re-reading. I have a handful of books I’ve read multiple times and will read again, I’m certain. Those are the books that just touch us somehow and stay relevant.

  5. Comment by Cathy C. Hall
    March 15, 2017 at 2:49 pm  


    Just puttin’ that out there. 🙂

    As for what gets me interested, hooks me? Voice certainly keeps me engaged when I like it but I’ve read plenty of books where the voice had to grow on me. What pulls me in is if the author can get me to ask one simple question: What happens next?

    It’s tricky, really, because I have to be quickly invested in a character and/or story (and sometimes, voice can do that) so that I CARE what happens next. But if I’m through the first page and I have the “so what?” feeling? Then yeah, chances are good that I don’t pick up again.

    (Classic book that irritated the crap out of me but I had to keep reading was NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy.By the tenth page or so, I was all in. Probably finished in one, maybe two days. SO compelling!)

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      March 22, 2017 at 9:26 am  

      Cormac McCarthy—he’s worth staying the course. Did you ever read The Road? So. Flippin’. Good.

  6. Comment by Lynn Obermoeller
    March 15, 2017 at 3:38 pm  

    I’ve never watched The Voice, but I like the concept you talked about… and the winner you shared from a few years ago, wow. Love it. I tend to finish books even if they don’t grab me because I have hope that they’ll get better… especially if there was so much hype about them. Just like everything, we all have different tastes!

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      March 22, 2017 at 9:27 am  

      The arts in general are so subjective. One man’s trash, as they say, is another man’s treasure. And if you haven’t watched The Voice, you ought to try it! It’s terrific!

  7. Comment by ButtonsMom2003
    March 15, 2017 at 10:14 pm  

    It’s rare that I DNF a book but I admit to becoming a bit more picky since I’ve been reading so many ARCs/betas. I’ve never really thought of it in terms of voice before but I understand what you mean. I will have to pay more attention to the very first lines of a book. There have been a few that didn’t grab me even by the end of chapter one but improved so much that I was really glad I didn’t stop.

    One of my pet peeves is using the same word and/or phrase too many times in a short amount of writing – it just drives me nuts. You never do that. 🙂

    This was a great post; the writing flows just like in your books. <3

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      March 22, 2017 at 9:29 am  

      Thanks. 🙂 I see that a lot when I’m editing for clients, that repeated word thing. It’s easy to do, but also easy to fix after it’s pointed out. And I bet you have become pickier. You do so much reading, and you’re taking in the words of a lot of different authors, so I can see how being a reviewer would hone your senses to what you love and don’t love. Your reviewers are killer though. 🙂

  8. Comment by Sioux
    March 22, 2017 at 6:55 am  

    Lisa–I LOVE The Voice, and either tune in and watch it when it’s happening every Monday and Tuesday, or watch it later in the week.

    I don’t know how to describe what hooks me, but I know it when I read it. I always read the first few lines of a book and if it doesn’t grab me, I usually don’t buy it or check it out.

    Great connection and post, as usual.

    • Comment by Lisa Ricard Claro
      March 22, 2017 at 9:30 am  

      Thanks, Sioux. For me it’s usually voice that hooks me first, then how the plot unfolds. Sometimes, even when the voice brings me in, the plot falls flat and loses me midway. And I’m glad you love The Voice! Our power went out last night so we missed it. :-/

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